There’s a great op-ed in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer highlighting North Carolina’s shameful recent decision to slash food assistance benefits (aka “SNAP”).
Jessica Murrell, who once relied on SNAP/Food Stamps during a rough patch in her life, explains:
“I never thought that I would find myself in need of SNAP, formerly known as food stamps. After successfully graduating from college with a bachelor’s of science degree in biology, I was sure I would have a job in the bag.
Unfortunately, that was not my story. When I graduated in December 2007, I was also five months pregnant, and let’s just say the economy was at its worst since the 1930s. I needed a temporary lift until I could find work, and SNAP was a true lifesaver. Being able to receive help from Medicaid and SNAP allowed me to deliver a beautiful baby girl and provide the nutrition she needed as a breast-feeding mother.”
In other words, the program worked just as it was intended to. Now Murrell is a successful professional and worried that loads of potentially hungry people will not get the help she did:
“I’m deeply concerned about cuts to the program that will lead to greater food insecurity throughout our state, harming not only individuals but also local economies. Over the course of 2016, more than 100,000 North Carolinians are at risk of losing their SNAP benefits because of a provision that limits the length of time an adult without children is allowed to receive food assistance while out of work. Waivers have allowed some of our very poor neighbors who live in communities with weak labor markets to receive SNAP and weather the economic downturn, but state lawmakers permanently banned such waivers after July, and everyone faces a three-month limit.
Though the economy has certainly improved, there are still scores of men and women unable to find stable employment despite their best efforts. Of the state’s 100 counties, 89 have more people looking for work than available job openings. Eliminating the SNAP waiver will not create opportunities but will only increase economic hardship for some of our poorest neighbors.”
She’s right, of course. As analyst Tazra Mitchell explained in this space a couple weeks ago, last year’s mean-spirited SNAP cuts in North Carolina are all but sure to create thousands more hungry people in our state. These people want to work, but literally can’t find jobs or even volunteer opportunities.
The bottom line: Despite their assurances that they want more North Carolinians to work their way out of poverty like Ms. Murrell, the actions of our state leaders all but guarantee that more people will remain mired in poverty. In other words, the SNAP cuts are a matter of “business as usual” for North Carolina’s conservative political leadership.